The best trading platforms UK

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Fact Checked.
Updated on
August 4, 2022

In a nutshell

We’ve reviewed and compared the best trading platforms in the UK. These trading platforms are for regularly buying and selling investments (such as shares).

Nutty

Here’s the best trading platforms in the UK – good luck trading! Find our criteria and learn more about trading below.

(For a more hands-off approach, check out the best investment apps, and for the full range of options, check out the best investment platforms.)

The top trading platforms (UK)
Best overall
Best app

The best trading platforms

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Best overall

eToro

eToro is an awesome trading platform with great social trading features that makes trading fun. It's crazy popular, with a huge community you can get involved in, learn from and copy their trades! Trading is commission free too (but there can be other fees).

It’s also got the largest range of assets to trade, including stocks, ETFs, crypto, CFDs, currencies and commodities (such as gold).

Highly recommended as the best place for beginners to get started (there's a demo account too), and great features for more experienced traders (such as margin trading).

Ready to give it a try? Here's where to get started with eToro¹.

Platform experience: awesome
Device options:
website & phone app
Support:
24/7
Stocks & Shares ISA:
no
Pension (SIPP):
no
Range of investments:
huge
Stocks:
yes
ETFs: yes
Fractional shares:
yes
Crypto:
yes
CFDs:
yes
Account fee:
free
Cost per trade:
free
Currency conversion fee:
0.50% on non-USD deposits

Rating:

eToro rated 5 stars

68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading.

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Best app

Freetrade

Freetrade is taking the UK by storm and fast becoming one of the top places to buy and sell (trade) stocks and shares for free, thanks to it’s simple to use trading app, perfect for beginners and pros.

It’s free to use, but to get more advanced trading features, such as stop-loss and limit orders, you’ll have to upgrade to a ‘plus’ account (£9.99 per month), and you’ll get the full range of stocks too. It’s worth it. (You can offset the cost with 3% interest on your cash balance).

Platform experience: awesome
Device options:
phone app only
Support:
working hours
Stocks & Shares ISA:
yes
Pension (SIPP):
yes
Range of investments:
large
Stocks:
yes
ETFs:
yes
Fractional shares:
yes
Crypto:
no (coming soon)
CFDs:
no
Account fee:
£0 - £9.99
Cost per trade:
free
Currency conversion fee:
0.45% (average)

Rating:

Freetrade rated 5 stars

There's currently a deal for our readers, get a free share worth up to £200 when you sign up with Nuts About Money.

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Large investments

Interactive Investor

Interactive Investor is a great trading platform. The range of investments is huge and the platform is super easy to use.

It's a bit different to others out there too, you'll pay a flat fee per month (£9.99) for your account, rather than a percentage of your investments – which makes it one of the cheapest out there if you have a larger portfolio (£30,000+).

A great option for the more experienced investors who will be able to save a fair bit of cash in fees.

Platform experience: great
Device options: website & phone app
Support: Mon - Friday (daytime)
Stocks & Shares ISA: yes
Pension (SIPP): yes
Range of investments: huge
Stocks: yes
‍ETFs: yes
Fractional shares: no
Crypto: no
CFDs: no
Account fee: £9.99 per month
Cost per trade: 1 free per month (£7.99 after)
Currency conversion fee: 1.5%

Rating

Interactive Investor rated 5 stars

Prefer a more traditional trading platform?

If you’re a bit more old school and feel like you want a long established company with a trustworthy history, or perhaps you want to make trades over the phone – and there’s nothing wrong with any of that! Then Hargreaves Lansdown tops the list.

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Best traditional

Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown is a more traditional trading platform, with a long established history.

The range of investment options is good, and you can still trade on their website and phone app, or make trades with a phone call, the choice is yours.

However, it’s very expensive compared to the newer commission free platforms, and so not a good choice for smaller trading accounts or frequent trading.

Platform experience: OK
Device options:
website, phone app, phone call
Support:
working hours
Stocks & Shares ISA:
yes
Pension (SIPP):
yes
Range of investments:
good
Stocks:
yes
ETFs:
yes
Fractional shares:
no
Crypto:
no
CFDs:
yes
Account fee:
0.45% per year on ISAs and funds
Cost per trade:
£5.95 - £11.95
Currency conversion fee:
0.25% - 1% (high)

Rating

Hargreaves Lansdown rated 2 stars

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Rating

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Rating

Our criteria for comparing the best trading platforms

Best trading platforms – UK, 2022

To determine the best trading platforms, we focused on 5 main areas: 

  • Range of investments (assets)
  • Trading features (such as stop-loss and limit orders)
  • Costs
  • Customer reviews
  • The platform experience

There’s loads of online trading platforms out there, but we’re only showing you the best – ones we’ve recommended to our own friends and family, so you can be confident that you’ll be using the best, whichever platform you decide to go with.

You could also try them all out to see which one you prefer – you can have as many as you like! (providing you only have one Stocks & Shares ISA.)

Frequently asked questions

What assets can you trade?

With an online trading platform, you’ll often just be trading company shares listed on a stock exchange, but you can also buy ETFs, investment trusts, REITs, OEICs, OEICs, IPOs, SPACs and more. Wow, that's a lot of acronyms! These are all often called assets. Let’s go through what they mean:

  • Stocks and shares. These are small ownership stakes of individual companies, so when you buy them you own part of the company. They are traded (bought and sold) on stock exchanges, and as the company grows in value, so does the share price.
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These are a group or combination of individual shares, which could be a group of companies in a similar industry, such as electric vehicles, or a group of large successful companies such as the top 100 companies in the UK. You can simply buy a share of the ETF rather than all the individual shares. The ETF will trade on a stock exchange too.
ETFs - Exchange Traded Funds
  • Investment trusts. These are actual companies listed on a stock exchange, but instead of trading like a business, they only invest in other businesses – and their investments can be in any company, not just those listed on the stock market, so private companies and brand new businesses.
  • Real-estate investment trusts (REITs). These companies only invest in real estate, and often commercial real estate, such as offices, hotels, shops and warehouses. The property would generate income (often rent) and this income is often given back to investors regularly (called dividends).
  • Open-ended investment companies (OEICs). Are UK based investment funds (which just means a group of investments and investors). With OEICs new shares are issued when someone purchases them, rather than having a fixed number of shares. They are run by investment fund managers, and more suited to hands-off investors.
  • Initial public offering (IPOs). An IPO is when a private company begins trading on a stock exchange, and therefore becomes a public company, and open to the public to invest in (by buying shares in the company). These can be incredibly popular depending on the company undergoing the IPO.
  • Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). These are newly formed companies listed on stock exchanges, that have the sole purpose of raising money from investors, to then go out and buy an existing business. They are often called ‘blank check’ shell companies. They have become quite popular as an alternative to a traditional IPO, as they’re often much easier for companies to ‘go public’ and list on a stock exchange.
  • Cryptocurrencies. The future of money, and possibly the future of everything. Without getting too confusing, these are tokens (or coins) that are issued by a company on a blockchain, such as a coin on the blockchain Ethereum, or a coin of the blockchain itself, which is used to keep the blockchain running. (if you're looking to trade crypto often, check out the best crypto exchanges UK and how to buy ethereum and how to buy bitcoin.

What’s a fractional share?

Sometimes the share price of a company can be pretty high. If you take Netflix for instance, their share price has reached over $600. Traditionally, you would have had to buy a whole share with $600 in cash to be able to invest in Netflix.

For most investors, that’s a bit too much money to have in just one company, and a lot of investors, particularly beginners, won't have $600 in their account.

This is where fractional shares come in. You can buy a portion of a share, for instance, 25% of a share (or ¼ of a share). Or, you could buy as little as 1%, it all depends on how much money you want to invest in a company, rather than how much the share is worth.

Fractional shares

So in our example above, you could invest $100 in Netflix and receive ⅙ of a share. It makes investing with smaller budgets a lot easier, and gives you access to more companies with high share prices.

What’s a CFD and how are they different?

You might see some trading platforms use CFDs, such as eToro (here's our eToro UK review). And here’s where it gets a bit complicated. A CFD is a Contract For Difference, which means you are entering into an agreement (a contract) with someone, normally a broker, about the price direction of something, normally an asset, such as the price of a stock going up in the future.

When you close the trade, which means you don’t want to be in the trade anymore, perhaps the price has increased to your profit target, the contract ends, and you are paid out the difference between your purchase price and closing price. And vis-versa if you close the trade at a loss.

Sound confusing? Let’s get into that a bit more, you aren’t purchasing any assets, such as shares or ETFs. You are in fact, just interacting with a broker and agreeing a trade on the price direction of an asset (up or down).

On the surface, it’s very similar to buying stocks and shares, the difference is you don’t own the asset, you are just effectively placing a (hopefully sensible) bet on the price.

They’re great for trading strategies where you want to get in and out quickly and easily, such as short-term day-trading trading strategies. And if you’re trading regularly it can be cost-effective – particularly if your current broker is very expensive and charges per trade. 

They’re not meant for long-term investment strategies, when it’s often cheaper to buy and own the asset directly.

And as you can trade any price direction, you can bet on the price falling, which is often difficult to do without CFDs. This is called shorting, and is a good tool for advanced trading strategies as it allows you to hedge certain investments if you want to (which means adding some insurance if the trade goes against you). You’re then also able to trade when the market declines and prices fall.

You can trade CFDs on a huge range of assets, such as stocks, ETFs, indices, currencies and cryptocurrencies.

Another major benefit of CFDs is the ability to use leverage, which means borrowing money from a broker for your trades and magnifying your profits (and losses). For instance, you could use £1,000 as security (collateral), to make a trade with the broker for £10,000 worth of shares, using 10:1 leverage. 

If the price increases by 10%, you have now made £1,000 profit (10% of £10,000), so 100% profit on your £1,000, rather than £100, which is what you would have made if you traded with just your £1,000. Quite a big difference.

However, if the price of the asset went down 10%, your £1,000 would be wiped out. (10% of £10,000). For this reason, extreme caution should be used, and it’s only for advanced traders.

Is spread betting the same as CFDs?

Nope! But very similar. 

Spread betting is placing a bet on the price of the asset either going up or down in value, and is often used with leverage (borrowed funds). The assets are normally stocks, currencies or commodities (like gold).

The main difference is with spread betting you’ll be betting on the price in the future, and specifying a specific date, called an expiration date, and settle the bet on that date. With CFDs, there’s no expiration date and you can close the trade whenever you like.

It’s tax-free (as it’s gambling), and normally commission-free too.

What’s a currency conversion fee?

When you trade stocks and ETFs from across the world on different stock exchanges, you’ll be trading in different currencies. It’s great to have access to all of these different assets, and the potential to find assets you like and make money is much higher.

However, the platform itself needs to convert your current currency, for instance British Pounds into the currency of the stock, for instance US Dollars, if you want to purchase a stock in the US, such as Google.

Unfortunately, this is not free, and this costs the platform itself money, so often they’ll charge this to you.

A fee is normally based on the exchange rate at that moment in time, called the spot exchange rate, plus an extra fee, anywhere from 0% to 1.5%+, depending on the trading platform.

What is Stamp Duty? And when do I pay it?

When you buy shares in a UK company, you’ll often need to pay Stamp Duty, which is a tax on purchasing assets. You’ll pay it when buying a home too.

When you purchase UK shares on a trading platform, you’ll technically pay Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT), which is 0.50% of the purchase price.

This is handled for you by the platform, all automatically, and they’ll let you know how much you’ll be paying.

There’s some good news though, you won’t pay Stamp Duty on ETFs, or on any IPOs, or any shares on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market (an exchange for smaller companies).

And there’s no Stamp Duty to pay on any shares outside of the UK, so European and US stocks are tax free!

What’s a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA?

A self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, or sometimes called a self-select Stocks & Shares ISA, is a trading or investment account with all the benefits of an ISA – i.e. you can invest £20,000 per year, and everything you make from the total amount within it is completely tax free!

Self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA

You can buy whichever investment funds or shares you want to, providing the online trading platform has them available – all the decisions are yours, and never pay tax on the profit, ever.

You can only pay into one Stocks & Shares ISA per year however, so if you've already got one, use a General Investment Accounts (GIA), more on them below.

What’s an expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA?

The opposite of a self-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, is an expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA, where experts in investing will be deciding which investments to make for you.

Expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISA

You’d normally select an investment plan from a few options, such as an ethical investment plan, or the platform's standard plan. Add your money, then just sit back, relax and watch your money grow. A good example, and great investment platform is Moneyfarm¹.

What’s an SIPP?

An SIPP is a Self-Invested Personal Pension. That’s a pension that you can build and manage yourself, which you can have in addition to a pension with an employer (workplace pension) and the government (state pension).

It’s an investment account you can have, just like a Stocks & Shares ISA, or a General Investment Account, where you are free to make any investments you like. You are in control.

And better yet, you get tax relief on your contributions, which means free money from the government on any money you add into the account, all added automatically by your investment platform.

If you’re a basic rate tax payer (that’s earning under £50,270 per year), you’ll get 25% added to your account of whatever amount you put in (which works out as 20% tax relief).

And if you’re a higher rate tax payer (earning over £50,270 per year), you can get 40% tax relief, and it’s 45% for additional rate tax payers (earning over £150,000 per year). You’ll have to claim the additional 20% or 25% tax relief yourself from HMRC via self-assessment tax return.

You can’t put in more than your salary though, and there’s a cap of £40,000 too – whichever is higher.

There’s one downside however, you can’t access the money within your pension until aged 55, or 57 from 6 April 2028. So make sure this is the right option for you before opening an account.

What's General Investment Accounts (GIA)?

A General Investment Account (GIA), or commonly known as a brokerage account, sounds a bit more complicated than it is. You can think of it as just a regular account, without all the bells and whistles of an ISA or pension account.

They’re great because if you’re already using your ISA allowance on another platform or with an investment account elsewhere, you can still trade. And, you can have as many GIA accounts as you like!

The downside is that you’ll have to start paying Capital Gains Tax if your profits exceed the Capital Gains Tax allowance of £12,300 over a tax year – April 6th to April 5th the following year. The current rate is 20% tax. You can register and pay it all online these days, all super easy.

Don’t let tax put you off trading or investing, you only pay tax on profits. And you get to keep the remaining 80%. Think of the money!

But if you can, use your Stocks & Shares ISA allowance first! You can transfer your ISA to a new uk trading platform if you like too – the new platform will handle the transfer for you.

How much do I have to invest to start with?

All of these trading platforms allow you to invest with very little! If you pick Freetrade for instance, you can trade with just £2. Other platforms you might have to add around £25 to get started. Great for beginners!

With expert-managed Stocks & Shares ISAs, you might have to add a bit more, sometimes a few hundred pounds to get started, as they’ll be doing some work on your behalf getting your account set up.

If you’re not ready to deposit anything into a trading platform yet, you can try the demo account on eToro¹ to get a feel for trading. It’s completely free!

Is a stock trading app a trading platform?

Yep! A stock trading app is an online trading platform – you can do everything on the go these days.

Sometimes you won’t get the same functionality with an app as you do on a website, so they might not be the best for you. It comes down to what you want to do, and how much data and tools you need as part of your trading strategy.

However most web-based trading platforms have a mobile app too, so you don’t need to choose between them. If you’re at home or work you could use your computer, and if you’re out, use the mobile app for quick trades – maybe some big news has come out and you want to buy or sell your position. 

Or, you could just use the mobile app for everything! The choice is yours.

What’s a retail investor?

A retail investor is someone who’s not trading as their profession – they are using a personal broker account to buy and sell investments for themselves, often stocks and ETFs. You’re probably one if you’re reading this!

If it was your profession, you’d often be called an institutional investor, and you’d normally be managing a fund, such as a pension fund, hedge fund or fund within an investment bank, and with significantly more money under your management than a retail investor.

Sometimes professionals are called sophisticated investors and retail investors unsophisticated investors, as they don’t tend to have the same skills, experience or money (it's actually a real definition by the FCA). Although it doesn’t really mean you’re not sophisticated – we’re sure you’ve got loads of style.

There’s a lot of retail investors out there too – and can cause a big impact on the markets. Often panic selling (everyone selling) happens because of ‘the crowd’ following each other, and influencing each other. That’s all part of trading though! Good luck out there, we’re rooting for you.

What does commission-free mean?

Lot’s of the more modern trading apps and investment platforms are offering commission-free trading these days – which is great for you and me! It means there’s no cost to either buy or sell an investment. Awesome.

It’s semi-revolutionary because stock brokers have always charged a fee to trade for their clients – and it can sometimes be expensive. If you use a more traditional broker like Hargreaves Lansdown, they’ll charge as much as £11.95 per trade. Quite a lot for most traders with smaller balances – and makes most trades not worthwhile.

So commission-free helps out the little guy more, you can trade with a lot less money, and not worry about fees taking a significant chunk of your profit.

It doesn’t mean platforms are fee-free though. You’ll often still have to pay an account fee, which is often either a fixed fee per month or a percentage of your portfolio (the money in your account).

What’s the Financial Services Compensation Scheme?

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is effectively insurance for you, should anything go wrong with the company holding your cash!

It’s completely free, and you don’t need to sign up to anything, it’s set up by the government to protect customers not just on uk trading platforms, but with any financial institution holding customers money – even things like mortgages.

As long as the company has been approved and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), then you’d normally be covered.

You’re covered up to £85,000 per company, and basically if the company goes out of business and doesn’t give you your money back, the FSCS will.

Should I use a demo account first?

You don’t have to, but if you’re not comfortable using real cash, then go for it!

The only place that offers a demo account is eToro.

However, don’t use a demo account for too long, as once you learn the basics of how to trade and make investments, you’ll want to get real-world experience, even if you’re losing. 

When it’s your own money, it’s a lot different and you’ll feel the right emotions and think about risk management, rather than trying to gamble everything!

What about foreign exchange trading (forex)?

If you’re looking to trade foreign currencies (forex to the cool kids), that’s trading things like USD and GBP, and swapping them (just making sure!), you can do that on some trading platforms but not all of them.

In fact eToro is one of the only places that’s not a specialised foreign exchange platform (here’s our eToro UK review to learn more).

We haven’t included forex in our criteria for the best platforms though, we’ve focused on share dealing platforms.

And, there we have it

And that’s all there is to it for the best uk trading platforms. Thanks to awesome technology, you can trade from the comfort of your own home, or out in the wild, wherever you are, all on your phone. No more calls with old school brokers, unless you want to!

Better yet, you can trade instantly, and far cheaper on a trading platform, and ultimately make more money. It’s a win-win.

And on a serious note, your money is at risk when you trade, so please trade sensibly, and stick to a trading and investment strategy that works for you. Always do your own research on investments, and be smart – use proper risk management. Good luck!

Oh and by the way, if you're not looking to trade regularly, but invest with a longer-term view, check out our best investment platforms UK.

New to trading?

Start with eToro, it's a great place to learn by copying other peoples trades and their analysis. (68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading.)
Visit eToro¹
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This article has been fact checked

This article was written by the team at Nuts About Money, and fact-checked by 2 independent reviewers. You’re in safe hands.

New to trading?

Start with eToro, it's a great place to learn by copying other peoples trades and their analysis. (68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading.)

Visit eToro¹Visit eToro¹

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